Image of two women modeling the PETA and Coalition LA faux leather jacket

Vegan Leather: What It Is and Why It Belongs in Your Closet

What’s so great about vegan leather? Only everything. Number one, it’s not made from the skins of dead animals. Plus, it’s eco-friendly—and très chic.

But what is vegan leather?

Vegan leather is often made from polyurethane, a polymer that can be made to order for any designer’s whim. It can also be made from innovative and sustainable materials such as pineapple leaves, cork, apple peels, other fruit waste, and recycled plastic and used to create products that put animal skins to shame.

For example, PETA Business Friend Desserto’s vegan leather is stylish, sustainable, and made of cactus. Yes, you read that correctly! Desserto makes beautiful vegan leather out of cactus. It’s good for the planet, good for animals, and good for your soul.

Stella McCartney is on the growing list of designers who feature only vegan leather in their collections. And no wonder: Vegan leather is versatile. From moto jackets in every cut and color to the perfect little black dress—and even intimate items that are sure to tickle one’s fancy—there’s a vegan leather version.

That’s just for starters. You can also find vegan leather shoes, boots, handbags, billfolds, and seat covers for your car. And if you have deep pockets, several luxury automakers offer vegan leather seating, including Tesla, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, and Ferrari.

Not only does vegan leather make you look good, it also makes you feel good because it’s cruelty-free. More than a billion cows, pigs, goats, sheep, alligators, ostriches, kangaroos, and even dogs and cats are cruelly slaughtered for their skins every year. The tails and horns of many of these animals are cut off without painkillers, and some are even skinned and cut apart while still conscious. By contrast, vegan leather offers a killer look without any killing.

Planet Earth loves sustainable vegan leather, too. Whether made from Piñatex—a plant-based material—or polyurethane, animal-free leathers contribute less to water pollution, water depletion, and greenhouse gas emissions than leather made from cows’ skin.

As a coproduct of the meat industry, leather contributes to the environmental destruction caused by animal agriculture—which is among the leading culprits of the climate catastrophe. Additionally, turning animals’ skin into leather requires loads of energy and a slew of chemicals—including chromium, mineral salts, coal-tar derivatives, formaldehyde, oils, dyes, and finishes, some of them cyanide-based. This process, which halts decomposition through chemical baths and dehydration, prevents animal-derived leather from effectively biodegrading.

In addition, the toxic waste from tanneries—which includes water-fouling salt, lime sludge, sulfides, and other pollutants—runs off into local water sources in countries like Bangladesh, a major leather-producing country, poisoning entire ecosystems and greatly increasing tannery workers’ risk of developing skin cancer. An estimated 90% of Bangladeshi workers will die before the age of 50 because of the hazardous production of leather.

So what’s in your closet? Start shedding your skins today with these new and eco-friendly trends:

Vegan Leather Jackets

Motorcycle jackets are tough, edgy, and always in style.

Image of two women modeling the PETA and Coalition LA faux leather jacket

If you don’t see a vegan label, look for key words like “faux leather,” polyurethane, or “manmade” materials. Check out these hot faux-leather jackets from Zara.

There’s no shortage of fantastic faux-leather looks at ASOS.

ASOS Vegan Faux Leather Jacket with Quilting

Vegan Leather Belts

Cork is the new vegan material on the block—a recyclable, biodegradable, and versatile material, it can be made to look and feel like leather. Corkor makes a great cork belt that has a rustic look that goes well with any pair of pants.

Vegan Wallets

Swap out your old bi-fold wallet for a classic vegan wallet by roandco.

Pixie Mood also offers lots of gorgeous vegan clutches and wallet purses to suit your style.

Vegan Purses

Lost Woods’ Briar Baguette Bag, made of MIRUM plastic-free vegan leather, is an animal-friendly staple for any occasion. This innovative material combines fashion and sustainability, which is part of the brand’s mission.

This Circle Crossbody bag made out of Banbū Leather is bold and beautiful. von Holzhausen’s vegan bamboo-based material is truly inspiring, and the company’s mission is to replace all animal-derived leather in the world with humane alternatives.

Vegan Leather Backpacks

Get yourself a sturdy vegan leather backpack to store the essentials. Urban Expressions offers backpacks in every style, from metallic vegan leather to embroidered.

Check out this backpack featuring microfiber vegan leather by Doshi.

Vegan Messenger Bags

Eve Cork makes messenger bags featuring cork leather in several gorgeous styles.

If you’re a busy professional and always on the run, go for a vegan leather briefcase. Doshi briefcases are slim, strong, and always classy.

All of Jentil’s bags, including this Tote Bag made from cork are available in natural, marble, and black colors.

Vegan Leather Sneakers

Say goodbye to waste and hello to innovative, sustainable fabrics. These sneakers from Good News x H&M are made from Bananatex, a durable and waterproof textile made with fibers from banana plants.

Faux Leather Pants

A mix of trousers and leggings, of course! These vegan leather pants from ASOS are worn best with a sultry sweater for a casual look or a cropped top for a night out.

model wearing black vegan leather pants and a crop top

Vegan Leather Mini Skirt

This Black Vegan Leather Mini Skirt by Delikate Rayne is so stylish that we can hardly stand it. If you really want to stop traffic, we recommend that you wear it with the matching bustier (sold separately). The set is also available in white.

Faux Ostrich Leather Bag

You don’t have to pluck feathers from ostriches to make bumpy leather—this faux ostrich–leather bag by GUNAS New York is vegan and just what you’re looking for.

Vegan Leather Boots

It’s always high time to break out a pair of vegan leather boots by Kat Mendenhall, whether you’re a city slicker or a small-town soul.

Sturdy, waterproof, and long-lasting—the materials in these vegan work boots tick all the boxes.

If this article is making you question your current lifestyle, then we have just the thing for you: our How to Wear Vegan page!

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